September 28, 2007
The last part of Santa Cruz I wanted to see was the highlands. I found out from an Israeli at the camping place on Isabela that there was an efficient system of colectivos on the island despite all of the tourist pamphlets that said that it was necessary to hire an expensive taxi to get anywhere. I found it simple to get to Santa Rosa, a tiny town in the middle of the island mainly dedicated to farming.
From Santa Rosa I walked to the El Chato tortoise reserve, an area where tortoises were free to live in the wild without fear of predators. Along the way I ran into a tortoise in the road and thought it was an incredible coincidence. Then a few minutes later, there were three more tortoises in the road. I looked beyond the barbed wire fence that separated the road from the farm fields and saw a bunch more tortoises grazing along with the cows. They must have had some strange symbiotic relationship that allowed both species to experience the love of grass without feeling the need to eat one another.
By the time I actually reached El Chato, I was sick of seeing tortoises and decided that I just wanted to go for a short walk on the path. My tourist pamphlet may have talked about taking a taxi, but it never mentioned the myriad paths that appeared to be set up specifically to confuse the tourists. Occasionally, an arrow would lead the way, but then the path would branch off three ways with no arrows indicating the proper direction. Even worse, sometimes I would follow an arrow only to run into another arrow pointing the opposite direction. I was under the impression that I would be walking in a loop, but once it became apparent that I was only getting further from the entrance, I turned around and proceeded to take the wrong path several times until I finally was able to leave the labyrinth.
Back in Santa Rosa, I hitched a ride further into the highlands to Los Gemelos, two big craters on either side of the main road. It took all of five minuets to look at them both, and I wondered why they appeared on so many itineraries of the cruises I was looking at. Then I realized that they were simply more accessible than any of the other interesting sights in the highlands, so the tours spent half a day just to look at two holes in the ground. What a waste of money.
I hitched back to Puerto Ayora and got picked up by a couple from Quito and Chile. They had lived on the Galapagos for over twenty years and owned a tourist restaurant. I found the lifestyle of the people in the highlands quite interesting because they lived on an island in the middle of the ocean, yet the landscape and culture could have represented anywhere in mainland Ecuador. Except for the hundreds of giant reptiles roaming the countryside, of course.